Australian court says genes can be patented

Ars Technica » Scientific Method 2013-02-16

A major legal battle is underway over gene patents in the US and is now headed to the Supreme Court, with oral arguments scheduled for April. A similar battle is taking place in Australia, and proponents of gene patents have just won a major victory in that nation.

An Australian federal judge has ruled that because the BRCA1 cancer gene has been "isolated" from the human body, it's appropriate to grant a patent on it. "The disputed claims extend only to naturally occurring DNA and RNA which have been extracted from cells obtained from the human body and purged of other biological materials with which they were associated," wrote the judge.

That's the exact opposite of the finding by the judge who heard the US case, who agreed with various doctors' groups and the ACLU that the whole idea of "isolating" genes really doesn't change the calculus. The patent holder was effectively demanding a monopoly on any doctors who viewed the gene, and that was unacceptable. The genetics company lost at district court, won at the patent-friendly US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and now has its case headed to the US Supreme Court.

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